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Based on data collected during the 2020 short rains assessment, the Kenya Food Security Steering Group (KFSSG) estimates that around 1.4 million Kenyans in arid and semi-arid areas are facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes, an increase of 93 percent compared to the preceding long rains season. Cumulatively below-average rainfall across eastern Kenya resulted in a poor harvest in marginal agricultural livelihood zones and declines in rangeland resources in pastoral areas driving Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes across northern and eastern Kenya.
The COVID-19 control measures continue to impact income-earning opportunities for both urban and rural poor households. In urban areas, reduced income-earning opportunities for casual labor and petty trade are limiting household purchasing power and driving Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes for poor households. In the rural areas, the indirect impacts of COVID-19 such as increased transportation costs, market supply chain slowdowns, below-average non-agricultural labor opportunities, and reduced remittances have lowered poor household access to food and income, contributing to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.
According to FAO's Desert Locust Bulletin, the northern desert locust invasion peak passed in early February. However, there are numerous small but highly mobile immature swarms in 24 counties across northern and central Kenya. Control operations have been effective and remaining swarms are smaller and less numerous compared to 2020. Rainfall in late February is likely to allow swarms to mature rapidly and lay eggs, with hatching in late March.
The forecast below-average 2021 March to May long rains are expected to negatively impact crop production and rangeland resource regeneration. Below-average household food stocks and income-earning opportunities, and declining livestock body conditions are expected to limit food and income access maintaining Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes across marginal agricultural and pastoral areas. However, the February-August 2021 long rains season for western Kenya is likely to be above average improving national market supply.
The onset of rainfall for the 2020 October to December short rains was varied, with rainfall starting three dekads early to on time in western Kenya and largely one to three dekads late across the rest of the country. Cumulative rainfall for the short rains was also mixed. Western Kenya received 126-350 percent of normal rainfall according to CHIRPS satellite data, while most of northern and eastern Kenya received 51-90 percent of normal cumulative rainfall. However, localized areas in Lamu, Garissa, Tana River, Wajir, Mandera, Marsabit, and Turkana received 26-50 percent of normal rainfall. The below-average and late start to the short rains resulted in a poor harvest across marginal mixed agricultural livelihood zones and declines in rangeland resources in pastoral areas driving Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes across northern and eastern Kenya.
Crop and livestock production: According to the Ministry of Agriculture, national maize production for 2020 was about 42 million 90 kg bags, with maize production from medium and high rainfall areas of Western and Rift Valley approximately 10-15 percent above the long-term average. Bean production is expected to be about 3.45 million 90 kg bags and be significantly below the five-year average as excessive rainfall during the 2020 long rains season caused rotting and waterlogging along with moisture stress at flowering stages. For the 2020 short rains, farmers in marginal agricultural areas planted 15-20 percent fewer maize hectares due to the below-average rainfall forecasts and limited access to inputs such as certified seed and fertilizer as COVID-19 restrictions limited supply and increased costs. Consequently, maize production for the short rains was 20-40 percent below average, attributed to low acreage, damage from desert locust infestations, and a dry spell at critical growth stages. Similarly, millet, sorghum, cowpeas, green grams, and bean production were 11-40 percent below average. Quelea quelea bird infestations also contributed to reduced millet, sorghum, and green grams production in Kitui and Tharaka counties.
Although trekking distances have increased and rangeland resource conditions are declining, in the northwest, livestock body conditions are 'good' to 'fair' for all species, and within average in the pastoral northwest counties, according to the KFSSG 2020 Short Rains Assessment field reports. However, damage from desert locusts and tree locusts to browse resulted in below-average body conditions for camels. In the pastoral northeast, livestock body conditions are below normal for this time of year, ranging from 'good' to 'fair', while camels were in normal 'good' condition.
According to field reports and the satellite-derived Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), pasture and browse conditions are above-average in southern and southeastern Kenya, along with central Turkana, western and central Marsabit, and eastern Garissa. Across the rest of the country, the pasture and browse conditions are below average ranging from less than 60 percent to 90 percent of normal. This has increased return trekking distances from grazing areas to water sources from an average of 4-20 km to 5-25km and reduced watering frequency to 1-4 days per week for all species compared to daily normally. Field reports indicate that at least 50 percent of livestock have migrated from the homesteads to dry season grazing areas, with internal migration reported in all counties. Across the pastoral livelihood zones, there are reports of intra and inter-county livestock migration searching for forage and water resources.
Birth rates are within the normal ranges but will likely decline as forage availability declines. Household Tropical Livestock Units (TLUs) remain below average at two to nine TLUs than four to 10 TLUs for poor households across pastoral areas driven by the poor 2020 Short rains and previous droughts, particularly 2016-2017 where poor rains resulted in significant livestock deaths and affected birth rates. Additional drivers for below-average TLUs are incidences of both notifiable and endemic diseases, livestock being sold or consumed, increased frequency of livestock raids in Turkana and Samburu counties, more households leaving pastoralism to engage in other livelihoods, or switching herds for lower numbers but higher quality cattle for dairy production. Livestock mortalities remained normal through the short rains as ongoing interventions to address disease outbreaks through surveillance, vaccination, and confirmation of suspected cases were supported by veterinary services and partners. As livestock migration increases, milk production has dropped to one to two liters per household per day compared to the normal two to five liters. Correspondingly, milk consumption is below average at zero to two liters than a normal of one to three liters. The decline in production has increased milk prices to 50-120 KES per liter compared to the normal 30-80 KES, reducing household milk access.
Below-average water availability has similarly impacted households as they spend more time fetching water over increased distances and at a higher cost, reducing access and driving below-average consumption. Return trekking distances for domestic water sources are 2-10 km compared to 1-5km. However, in Mandera and Samburu, return distances were 7-20 km compared to 5-10 km normally. The cost of water is normal across most pastoral areas, with a 20-liter jerrycan costing 2-10 KES. However, in Wajir, Mandera, and Tana River, the cost of water has increased to 10-30 KES compared to the normal 2-5 KES. The increase in trekking distances and cost of water has reduced clean water access, increased household vulnerability to waterborne diseases, and decreased time to engage in livelihood activities to obtain food and income.
Resource-based conflict between farmers and pastoralists have been reported across central and eastern Kenya as forage and water resources decline. Due to below-average crop production, high staple prices, and limited household income sources, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) area-level outcomes prevail. However, in the pastoral areas, resource-based conflicts continue to limit livelihood activities. Additionally, as forage and water resources decline, livestock migration has reduced milk availability for sale and consumption, driving Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.
Markets and Trade: The wholesale price of white maize grain is stable in the urban reference markets and following the seasonal trends. Prices remained average to 14 percent below average driven by the continued availability of the 2020 long rains production in the high and medium rainfall areas of western and Rift Valley. Between December 2020 and January 2021, retail prices across the marginal areas were within the five-year average in the southeast marginal agricultural area reference markets, supported by the short rains production and availability of supplies from neighboring counties and cross-border imports from Tanzania. However, maize prices were 11 percent below average in Kilifi due to additional market supply from Lamu and Ethiopia. In the pastoral areas, maize prices were 6-9 percent below average as the typical source markets areas maintained market supply, but within average in Narok, Marsabit, and Samburu. However, prices were 10-22 percent above average in Kajiado, Wajir, Mandera, and Garissa due to reduced cross-border supplies and high demand for livestock feed. Bean prices were average in Kisumu but ranged between 8-26 percent above average across the rest of the markets following the below-average harvests through 2020 in the high and medium rainfall areas and regionally. In marginal agricultural areas, January bean prices were 6-33 percent above the five-year average due to low availability following three consecutive below-average production seasons.
Household purchasing power, as measured by the goat-to-maize terms of trade, was favorable due to high livestock prices, benefitting poor households with saleable livestock. The price of a medium-sized goat in January across most pastoral and agropastoral areas was 10-35 percent above average. In Kajiado, goat prices are twice the average price supported by relatively good body conditions and reduced livestock supply to the markets as pastoralists seek to replenish their herds. Goat prices in Wajir and Turkana were within average and 15 percent below average, respectively, due to below-average livestock body conditions. Despite mixed maize prices, the goat-to-maize terms-of-trade was 18-36 above average across most pastoral regions and 64 and 79 percent above average in Tana River and Kajiado. Due to similar trends in goat and maize prices, goat-to-maize terms-of-trade were within average in Mandera, Garissa, and Turkana. However, in Wajir, the goat-to-maize terms-of-trade is 13 percent below average due to high maize prices.
Desert Locusts: According to FAO's Desert Locust Bulletin, in January, immature swarms continued to arrive in the northeast and east and then spread to northern, central, and southeastern counties. Swarms were reported in 15 counties, but dry conditions caused the swarms to move rapidly and lead to double reporting. Towards the end of January, laying was reported in Tana River, while mid-late instar hopper bands were reported in Lamu and Malindi from earlier breeding. Currently, there are numerous small but highly mobile immature swarms scattered across 24 counties. Current swarms are likely to continue to disperse within northern and central counties. The swarms will wait for the start of the March rains to mature and lay eggs, with hatching and hopper bands forming in March and April.
COVID-19: The ongoing COVID-19 control measures continue to impact food security. According to the 2020 KFSSG Short Rains Assessment, 43 percent of the assessed populations in the informal settlements of the urban areas of Nairobi, Mombasa, and Kisumu are estimated to be food insecure. Although the national unemployment rate has reduced from 10.4 percent in April-June 2020 to 7.3 percent in July-September 2020, current COVID-19 control measures such as the 10 pm to 4 am curfew, and enforcement of social distancing continue to limit labor opportunities and income for most poor urban households. According to the November 2020 Financial Sector Deepening Kenya (FSD) report, the reliance on credit facilities from digital/online/mobile lenders and shopkeepers continued to increase compared to pre-COVID time. The elevated reliance on credit facilities has increased household indebtedness to atypically high levels, compromising poor households' ability to match recovery with the gradual improvements in income. Due to limited labor opportunities, income losses, and weakened purchasing capacity, poor urban households continue to engage in coping strategies indicative of Stressed (IPC Phase 2), such as borrowing cash from relatives and purchasing food on credit. The worst-affected households are continuing to engage in coping strategies indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3), such as selling productive assets like bicycles and sewing machines.
Interannual and emergency food assistance: In December 2020, the World Food Programme (WFP) provided over 7,000 metric tons of food assistance and approximately 5.6 million USD in the form of cash transfers, reaching around 1.05 million beneficiaries across the country. NDMA's Hunger Safety Net Programme (HSNP) continues to provide bi-monthly cash transfers equivalent to 40 percent of total food needs to over 100,000 food-insecure households across Turkana, Marsabit, Wajir, and Mandera counties.
Current Food Security Outcomes
Marginal agricultural area outcomes: The recent short rains harvests have maintained below-average maize prices and improved own-produced food stocks despite below-average maize harvests. Additionally, household access to own-produced sorghum, millet, and green grams has increased household food availability. However, food stocks are expected to last one to two months instead of three to four months. According to January 2021 NDMA sentinel site data, food consumption scores (FCS) in marginal agricultural areas have improved following the short rains harvest and increased food availability and dietary diversity. However, apart from Kitui, at least 20 percent of households recorded a borderline or poor FCS across the southeast. Additionally, households are consuming one to two meals a day compared with the average two to three meals per day. Trends in consumption coping strategies as measured by rCSI have also improved with less than 3 percent of households applying Crisis consumption coping strategies except for Meru North where around 16 percent of households were engaged in consumption coping strategies indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Most households across marginal agricultural areas employ consumption-based coping strategies indicative of Stressed (IPC Phase 2), including borrowing food, relying on help from friends and family, reducing meal portion sizes and frequency, using less preferred or less expensive food, and borrowing from neighbors. In Kwale and Meru North, at least 20 percent of households are applying livelihood coping strategies indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Due to the below-average short rains harvest and limited income-earning opportunities constraining household food and income access, most households are unable to meet their non-food needs and are Stressed (IPC Phase 2).
Pastoral area outcomes: A steady deterioration of forage and water resources over the short rains season has increased livestock migration and reduced household milk availability and consumption. Although livestock body conditions and productivity are declining, livestock prices remain above-average, maintaining goat-to-maize terms-of-trade and household purchasing power across most pastoral areas. According to the January NDMA sentinel site data, in Mandera, over 80 percent of households reported an acceptable FCS. However, at least 20 percent of pastoral households reported a borderline or worse FCS driven by above-average staple food prices and below-average milk production across other pastoral counties. In Marsabit and Turkana, at least 20 percent of pastoral households were engaged in consumption-based coping strategies indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) as measured by rCSI. Across the rest of the pastoral areas, the rCSI was indicative of Stressed (IPC Phase 2). The most applied consumption-based coping strategies by households are relying on less preferred or less expensive food, borrowing food from neighbors and friends, taking credit from neighbors and shops, reducing meal portion sizes, and skipping meals. Similarly, at least 20 percent of households across all pastoral counties, except in Samburu and Wajir, were engaged in livelihood coping strategies indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3), such as withdrawing children out of school. Consequently, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes exist in parts of Mandera, Wajir, Marsabit, Samburu, Garissa, and Tana River. However, in Turkana, Isiolo, and parts of Marsabit, Samburu, Wajir, and Mandera, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are being driven by below-average forage resources, higher out-migration rates, relatively lower terms-of-trade, low milk production, increased cases of conflict and insecurity, and reduced household access to income and food.
The February to September 2021 most likely food security outcomes are based on the following national-level assumptions:
- Following the full reopening of schools in January, the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) has projected that there will be approximately 13,700 new COVID-19 cases and around 116 deaths by June, with the rate of daily COVID-19 cases and deaths peaking in mid-March 2021.
- The government plans to acquire 24 million doses of AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine by mid-February after approval by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the parliament. The vaccines will be accessible to members of the public for 300 KES (3 USD) per dose. Despite the vaccine's availability, COVID-19 related restrictions are likely to remain in place through the scenario period. The vaccine administration rate will likely be low given the prioritization of vaccinating medical workers, an increase in cases following the reopening of schools, and logistical and uptake constraints.
- According to the World Bank, Kenya's economy is projected to rebound in 2021, lifting real GDP by 6.9 percent yearly. The Kenyan government is also forecasting 6.4 percent growth in 2021 despite uncertainty around the pandemic's length and severity, the impact of the drought, and the global economy's recovery pace. Despite the economic growth forecasts, household incomes are expected to remain below average through the scenario period as many Kenyans remain unemployed, and income-earning opportunities remain below average.
- According to USGS/CPC forecasts, the 2021 March to May long rains are likely to be below average across eastern Kenya driven by diminishing La Niña conditions, warm western Pacific Ocean gradients, and a neutral Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD). However, the February-August 2021 long rains season for western Kenya is likely to be above average.
- FEWS NET forecasts that the 2021 long rains production is likely to be above average in western Kenya's unimodal areas driven by above-average rainfall. However, in eastern Kenya's marginal agricultural areas, the long rains harvest beginning in July is expected to be below average.
- Forage and water resources in pastoral areas are expected to remain below average following the partial regeneration from the below-average October to December short rains. The below-average March to May long rains will provide short-lived improvements in rangeland resources, and above-average temperatures will drive further rangeland resource deterioration through the scenario period.
- Livestock birth rates from late March to late April are expected to be below average in eastern Kenya, following below-average conception during the poor 2020 October to December short rains season. Below-average milk availability at the household level is expected throughout the scenario period mirroring the below-average forage and water resource levels in these areas.
- According to field reports from the Ministry of Agriculture, County Departments of Agriculture, and proxy satellite data, the short rains maize production is expected to be at least 30 percent below average, with crop failure expected in marginal agricultural areas of southeastern and coastal Kenya.
- According to the Food Security and Nutrition Working Group (FSNWG), cross-border maize imports from Uganda and Tanzania to Kenya are likely to continue at above-average levels due to below-average supply from poor short rains harvests and anticipated below-average long rains performance. Cross-border imports in 2021 will likely be greater than the five-year average of 625,000 MT. However, the prices of regional imports are projected to decline due to anticipated international imports.
- According to the Desert Locust Global Forecast by FAO, it is anticipated that the immature swarms will spread to central and southeastern parts of the country. The desert locust surveillance and control measures are likely to result in minor to moderate damage from the locusts through the scenario period due to sufficient funding through March and a near-fully funded appeal for the remainder of the scenario period.
- Maize grain prices in the Nairobi urban reference market are expected to follow seasonal trends and gradually rise to above-average levels and remain elevated due to the anticipated below-average short rains harvests and mixed March to May long rains season. However, maize prices will be moderated by the expectation of duty-free imports from Mexico and Ukraine. Maize grain prices are expected to range from 3,100-4,100 KES and be within average in February before rising to 6-19 percent above the five-year average. Bean prices are expected to follow the seasonal trend, range from 8,000 – 9,400 KES, and vary from 16-24 percent above the five-year average through the scenario period. Above-average bean prices are being driven by below-average production in 2020 and limited supply in the markets.
- According to the FSNWG, from February to September 2021, livestock market goat prices are expected to range from average to below average, driven by deteriorating livestock body conditions and border closures that will continue to restrict livestock from Somalia.
- Humanitarian assistance is expected to continue across the country as vulnerable, and food-insecure households are supported by a combination of national and county governments and humanitarian agencies. The Hunger Safety Net Programme (HSNP) is expected to provide cash transfers equivalent to 33 percent of daily kilocalorie needs to 100,000 households. The WFP Sustainable Food Systems Programme will also provide food assistance and cash transfers to approximately 130,000 households. Government monthly cash transfers are also expected to support 2.15 million households with orphans and vulnerable children, the elderly, and persons with severe disabilities. WFP is expected to continue providing humanitarian assistance through in-kind food and cash transfers equivalent to 60 percent of daily kilocalorie needs to the 410,000 people in Kakuma and Dadaab refugee settlements.
- Wasting levels are expected to vary across livelihoods and fluctuate throughout the scenario period. Increased food access from short rains and long rains harvests and increased milk access during the wet season will improve acute malnutrition outcomes. However, seasonal increases in disease prevalence during the rainy season and low milk access in pastoral livelihoods will aggravate acute malnutrition during the extended dry period. Typical acute malnutrition levels, including 'Critical' in many pastoral livelihoods, are likely to be sustained through September.
Most Likely Food Security Outcomes
In marginal agricultural areas, household food stocks from the below-average harvest are expected to last through March. Poor households are likely to be dependent on market food purchases despite below normal income-earning opportunities. Households will likely increase their reliance on the production and sale of charcoal and firewood and petty trade for income. Off-farm income-earning opportunities like non-agricultural casual labor, petty trade, and remittances will continue to be negatively impacted by COVID-19 control measures. However, staple food prices will likely remain average through the end of March, supported by available household stocks, but as demand increases, staple food prices are expected to rise. Households will increasingly apply consumption and livelihood coping strategies indicative of Stressed (IPC Phase 2), such as borrowing food, reducing meal sizes, using less preferred or less expensive food, borrowing food from neighbors, purchasing food on credit, and using savings. The harvest of short-cycle crops in May will provide some short-term improvements to household food stocks. In July, the likely below-average long rains crop harvests will also improve household food availability and consumption through mid to late-August as food stocks dwindle through the lean season. Most marginal agricultural areas are expected to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through the scenario period. Still, area-level Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to be in Kitui, Makueni, Tharaka Nithi, and Embu (Mbeere) counties due to a poor short rains harvest and below-average food and seed stocks. A likely poor long rains harvest is also likely to lead to the lean season starting in late June.
In pastoral areas, the dwindling rangeland resources will continue to drive atypical migration until the start of the March to May long rains. Livestock disease outbreaks are likely to increase as livestock congregates in common dry season grazing areas. Livestock deaths from disease will erode livelihood assets for the pastoralist households. Due to below-average TLUs and poor rangeland conditions, parts of Garissa and Tana River are expected to begin facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in March. The forecast below-average March to May long rains will improve forage and water resources and drive some livestock herds back to the wet season grazing areas, along with the breeding and hatching of desert locusts. From April, the newly hatched desert locusts will likely feed on the newly regenerated forage and drive atypically early migration back to the dry season grazing grounds. Livestock productivity is expected to improve through May but remains below average due to sub-optimal forage and water resources and increased trekking distances. Milk production and consumption are expected to improve through mid-June, driven by the short-term regeneration of rangeland resources, with some households improving to Stressed (IPC Phase 2). However, with the start of the lean season in late June, the decline in milk production and consumption will drive increased malnutrition, especially in children under five years. Household income is expected to be below average as migration reduces the milk available for sale, and deteriorating livestock body conditions reduce their sale value. Although non-livestock income-earning opportunities are likely to be below-average due to COVID-19 control measures, households are expected to increase their dependency on income from petty trade, remittances, and increased livestock sales. Households are also expected to increase their dependence on purchasing food with credit, support from government safety nets, and emergency food assistance. From July to September, households will likely intensify consumption and livelihood coping strategies, with at least one in five households applying coping strategies indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse. Area-level Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist in Northwestern, Northern, Northeastern, Southeastern pastoral livelihood zones through the scenario period. However, a small proportion of most affected poor households will likely be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and require urgent action to save their livelihoods and lives.
Events that Might Change the Outlook
Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario.
|Area||Event||Impact on food security conditions|
|National||Average March to May long rains||Average 2021 March to May long rains will drive significant pasture improvements, browse and water availability, sustain good livestock body conditions, productivity, and household milk availability between June and September. Average rainfall will also increase agricultural waged labor demand to average levels, improving household income and food access. An average 2021 long rains harvest will improve household food availability and incomes from crop sales and reduce acute food insecurity. However, many poor households will not meet their non-food needs without engaging in coping strategies indicative of Stressed (IPC Phase 2).|
Stricter COVID-19 control measures
|An extension or implementation of stricter COVID-19 control restrictions at border crossing points along the Kenya-Uganda and Kenya-Tanzania borders throughout the scenario period would continue to constrain cross-border imports and supply chain delays, increasing the price of maize and beans to higher than currently projected levels.|
|National||Increased government maize imports||If the government increases maize imports through tax incentives, increased quotas, or allow imports from non-East African or non-COMESA countries such as Mexico (human consumption) and Ukraine (animal feeds) to bridge national maize deficits, the increased supply will likely lower maize prices below projected levels and improve household market food access.|
|Northeastern Pastoral Livelihood Zone in Mandera and Wajir Counties||Boosting of security in the Kenya-Somalia border zones by the national security agencies||Reduced insecurity would facilitate the resumption of normal livelihood activities, trade flows, and market functioning. Increased security could lead to the reopening of the border, which would likely improve Kenya-Somalia cross-border trade by increasing both the demand and supply of livestock and staple foods, respectively. These factors would lead to improved access for humanitarian agencies and an area classification of Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!).|
For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report.
 Tropical Livestock Units are livestock numbers converted to a common unit. Conversion factors are: cattle = 0.7, sheep = 0.1, goats = 0.1, pigs = 0.2, chicken = 0.01.
Current food security outcomes, February 2021
Source: FEWS NET
SEASONAL CALENDAR FOR A TYPICAL YEAR
Source: FEWS NET
To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.